Ambassador Wood: Statement at UNGA Thematic Discussion on Conventional Weapons

Statement by Ambassador Robert A. Wood
Alternate Representative
Delegation of the United States of America

Sixty-Ninth UNGA First Committee
New York, New York
Thematic Discussion on Conventional Weapons

October 22, 2014

– Full Statement –

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I will address several separate issues in this statement –  the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), conventional weapons destruction, small arms and light weapons (SA/LW), and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).

Arms Trade Treaty

Let me start with the Arms Trade Treaty.

The ATT is important for establishing the highest possible common international standards for regulating the international trade in conventional arms.  The Treaty will help reduce the risk that international transfers of arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.  The Treaty requires State Parties to take responsibility for their decisions to transfer arms internationally and to implement safeguards and national procedures to ensure such international arms transfers are governed by relevant national authorities.  This Treaty will strengthen countries’ national security, build global security, and advance important humanitarian goals without undermining the legitimate international trade in conventional arms.

I am pleased to note that the Treaty has crossed the fifty State Party threshold and will enter into force on December 24.  The United States calls on those countries that have not signed it to consider doing so as soon as possible.

The United States applauds Mexico’s offer to host the First Conference of States Parties (CSP1).  The Conference will take a series of decisions on rules of procedure, financial rules, and establishing the Secretariat, and those decisions will help determine the future direction of the Treaty.  It is important that the Treaty is operated in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner so that the international community can maintain the momentum that led to the Treaty in the first place.  The more States Parties and Signatories the Treaty has, the stronger it will be.  Finally, we need to recognize that States are at different stages in developing the national control systems required by the Treaty and in being able to sign and/or ratify the Treaty.  We need to ensure that interested States are able to observe the process for themselves and that States that have committed to the Treaty are able to participate in the operation of the Treaty to the maximum extent possible.  For our part, the United States will support Mexico and other interested States in pursuit of a successful CSP1 that will lay the groundwork for a Treaty that lives up to all of our expectations.

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS)

Mr. Chairman, the United States is a High Contracting Party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and all of its five Protocols.  The United States attaches importance to the CCW as an instrument that has been able to bring together states with diverse national security concerns.

We look forward to the annual meetings of High Contracting Parties in November and to establishing a program of work for 2015 that will allow CCW States to continue supporting the universalization of the CCW and the implementation of all its Protocols.  The United States delegation was pleased with the high level of interest and wide participation in May’s informal meeting of experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS).  This meeting afforded CCW High Contracting Parties and observers the opportunity to identify and discuss the complex issues involved with LAWS and to begin the process of educating ourselves and each other on this subject.  The United States believes it is useful to continue this discussion in the framework of the CCW.  We are currently engaging with our fellow CCW High Contracting Parties to formulate an appropriate mandate for 2015.  While it is still too early to determine where these discussions might or should lead, additional CCW expert discussions focused on the policy, technical, legal and operational challenges related to autonomy, and the comprehensive review of weapon systems, could support a framework under which states might address concerns related to new weapons systems that incorporate varying degrees of autonomy.

Anti-personnel Landmines (APL) and Conventional Weapons Destruction

Mr. Chairman, in 2014 the United States announced several important changes to its anti-personnel landmine (APL) policy.  First, at the Third Review Conference of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention in Maputo, Mozambique in June 2014, the United States announced that it will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel munitions that are not compliant with the Ottawa Convention in the future, including to replace such munitions as they expire in the coming years.  Then on September 23, the United States further announced that we are aligning our APL policy outside the Korean Peninsula with the key requirements of the Ottawa Convention.  This means that the United States will:

  • Not use APL outside the Korean Peninsula;
  • Not assist, encourage, or induce anyone outside the Korean Peninsula to engage in activity prohibited by the Ottawa Convention; and
  • Undertake to destroy APL stockpiles not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.

These measures represent a further step to advance the humanitarian aims of the Ottawa Convention and to bring U.S. practice in closer alignment with a global humanitarian movement that has had a demonstrated positive impact in reducing civilian casualties from APL.  Although we are not currently changing our landmine policy with respect to the Korean Peninsula, where are our actions are governed by the unique circumstances there, we will continue to work to find ways that would ultimately allow us to accede to the Convention.

The United States has also been the world’s single largest financial supporter of humanitarian mine action and remains committed to eliminating aging, surplus, loosely-secured, or otherwise at-risk conventional weapons and munitions.  Since 1993, we have provided more than $2.3 billion in aid to over 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs, including clearance of landmines and unexploded munitions and destruction of excess small arms and light weapons and munitions.  We have assisted 15 affected states to become mine-impact free.  Since 2001, we have helped to destroy more than 1.6 million excess or poorly secured weapons and over 90,000 tons of munitions around the world.

In addition to supporting the above-mentioned programs, the United States provides a wide variety of assistance to combat the illicit trafficking of conventional weapons, helping states improve their export control practices and providing technical assistance for physical security and stockpile management of at-risk conventional arms and munitions.

Small Arms/Light Weapons

Mr. Chairman, the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation, and misuse of small arms and light weapons in many regions of the world pose a threat to international security.  The United States continues to urge fellow Member States to fully implement the 2001 UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (POA) and the 2005 International Tracing Instrument.  As the delegations noted at the June 2014 Fifth Biennial Meeting of States to consider implementation of the POA, more needs to be done by the international community to ensure full implementation of existing commitments in these instruments.  We are heartened, however, to see growing recognition by fellow Member States, as evidenced by the outcome document of the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States, of the importance of physical security and stockpile management in preventing the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons.  We also look forward to discussion at the 2015 open-ended meeting of governmental experts of the challenges and opportunities presented by emerging technology in the areas of marking, tracing, and record-keeping.  To this end, we urge Member States to send technical experts so that we may have a robust exchange of views on the practical application of technology in assisting States in implementing their commitments on marking, tracing, and record-keeping.

MANPADS

Mr. Chairman, the global threat posed by Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) has increased significantly in recent years.  Due to instability in the Middle East and Africa, terrorists have gained unprecedented access to shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, which pose a serious threat to global passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, and military aircraft around the world.  In recognition of this risk, the United States is cooperating with partners around the globe to secure these missiles, prevent their smuggling by extremists, and protect the targets that terrorists seek to attack.  The United States also established, many years ago, strict export controls over the transfer of all MANPADS.  The U.S. Government transfers only on a government-to-government basis through the Foreign Military Sales system.  Since 2003, the United States has cooperated with countries around the globe to destroy over 33,500 excess, loosely-secured, illicitly held, or otherwise at-risk MANPADS missiles, and thousands more launchers, in 38 countries.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.